« AnteriorContinuar »
not equal, all of them ought in reason, to take part of the burden.
3. Lastly, The promise made to joint prayers 'hath weight here, Matth. xviii. 19. if two of you Shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they Mall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. Verse 20. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. It is certain, there is such a thing as extraordinary prayer, which hath a share in the benefit of this promise: and if the Lord is pleased to lay such a weight on fome of his people their agreeing toge. ther to alk a thing of him, or their founding together, as the word properly signifies; it is not to be doubt. ed, but extraordinary prayer in families, upon fome special occafions, is both required by him, and acceptable unto him through Jesus Christ his Son.
Secondly, As for a providential call to family fast. ing and humiliation : by what is said before, for clearing of one's call to personal fasting, it may be judged of and discerned; the circumstances of the family being duly considered, and what the conduct of providence towards it, appears to point unto. The case of others, in whom the family hath a par. ticular concern, especially the case of the church, may found a call to family-fasting: as is clear from the practice of Esther with her maids, Esth. iv. 16. And so may the private case of the family itself; whether in respect of family-lins, family.strokes threatened or inflicted, or some special family-mer. cies to be desired. And since the exemplification of these general heads, in one's private case, made in the second section of the foregoing chapter, may without difficulty be accommodated to the case of one's family, ' by persons of the meanest capacity disposed to consider them; it is not necessary here to defcend to particulars again. Lastly, For directions towards family-fasting :
there are but few that need to be added unto those given before in the case of personal fafting. It is plain from the nature of the thing, that the external ordering and management of this matter belongs to the head of the family: and he or she is discreetly to chufe and appoint the time and place, wherein the family may perform the duty with leart disturbance; and to see that all be done decently and in order. And,
1. Let the head of the family, some competent time, at least the night before, give notice to them, that such a time is set apart for, and to be spent in that exercise : and withal shew them the causes of it, and exhort them to stir up themselves to the duties of such a solemn approach unto God, Common prudence will direct, as well as Christian duty doth oblige, the husband to consult his wife aforehand, as to the fixing of the time to be set apart in the family for that extraordinary piece of devotion.
2. In the morning, let each member in the family go apart by himself into some secret place, and there spend some time in reviewing, confessing, covenanting, praying, and supplicating, as directed in the case of personal fafting, so far as he can overtake them. The more conscientiously this secret work is managed, it will readily fare the better with the family, when met together.
3. Let the head of the family, having taken to himself, and allowed to them, a competent time for their extraordinary secret devotions, thereafter call them together. And the family being conveened, he may again, if need be, lay before them the causes of their fast, with suitable exhortations and encouragements, for exciting them unto the duty. And, after calling on God for the aid of his holy Spirit, let him ling with them fome pfalm or part of a psalm, suitable to fuch an occasion, such as Psalm 1xxx. 1. and downwards, Psalm xxxix. 6. to
the end, Pfalm li. 1. and downwards ; read before them some pertinent passage of scripture, such as those mentioned in the 6th direction of the preceeding chapter; and then pray with them. After pray. er made by the head of the family, let the mistress of the family, and such others as he judgeth fit, pray, one after another. It is very desirable, that each member of the family, being through grace fit to be employed, to take a part in that work. In the intervals of prayer, there may be finging, reading, or conference, as may be found most expe. dient.
4. It is fit that in these prayers there be extraordinary confession of fin, as particular as may be expe. dient; together with profesion of repentance, and hearty sorrow for sin, and of unfeigned desire to re. turn unto God, and unto the duties of a Christian life: and then, fervent and earnest supplications, upon the matters that are the peculiar caufes of the fast.
5. It is proper, that the concluding prayer be made by the head of the family; and that therein be resume the confessions, professions, and supplications on the matters of the fast; humbly acknowledge their failures in the management of the work; and profess their looking for pardon and acceptance through the blood of Jesus Chrilt alone, and also for grace to walk in the ways of new obedience, through the fame atoning blood. Then the joint exercise may be closed, with singing fome part of a psalm, such as Psalm xc. 13. to the end, Pfalm lxxxv. 6. to the end, or Psalm Ixix. 30. and downward.
6. Lastly, The joint exercise of the family being over, let each of them go apart by himself again, and spend some time in a review of what they have been employed in, and in secret prayer: the which is but a suitable conclusion to such folemn work. And fa.. mily-reformation ought to follow hereupon ; every member of the family watching over himself, and all
of them watching one over another; that by their holy walking, in peace and unity, and a conscientious performance of their relative duties, it may ap. pear, that they have been sincere and upright before the Lord, in their faft.
duties, to persons and families, these five things are offered in favour thereof; namely, that the practice of them is a proper means. 1. To bring strangers to religion acquainted with it ; 2. To recover backsliders ; 3. To prevent relapses ; 4. To prepare for a time of trial; and, lastly, To get matters clear for eternity.
First, The practice of personal and family-fasting and humiliation, is a proper means to bring strangers to religion acquainted with it ; that those who have not yet dipt into practical religion, may begin to enter into it. The work of conversion unto God begins at solemn serious consideration of one's own fpiritual state and case: the which if sinners could once be brought unto, there would be some hope of them, as of the prodigal, when he came to himself, Luke xv. 17. And if they would set themselves to the duty of personal fasting, and masters of families would now and then use family fafts, they might at length be brought to consider of their spiritual state and cafe. Wherefore,
1. Ye who are young, and have not yet dipt into the heart of religion, this memorial is for you. It is presumed, ye were baptized in your infancy, and that now ye are come to the years of discretion : but have you ever as yet taken a solemn deliberate view of
your lost and undone state by nature, under sin and the curse ; and of the remedy provided for you in Jesus Christ? And have you ever as yet person Сс
ally ally entered into covenant with God, by taking hold of his covenant of grace? You eat, you drink, you sleep, you work, you play or divert yourselves; and fo do young beasts too, the which, when they are dead, are done: but you have an immortal soul, that must eternally, live happy in heaven, or miserable in hell. It may be, you say your prayers too: but have you as yet personally renounced the devil, the vain world, and the flesh? You cannot but see, that death seizeth some as young and fprightly as you are; and you know not how soon God may call
you off; have you then laid your measures for eternity? Alas! you are heedlesly running about the devil's trap, playing yourself about the pit's mouth: and should your foot Ilip now, you are undone for ever. Thus faith the Lord of hots, Consider your ways.
*2. Careless finners, careless about the concerns of the other world, whatever your age or years be, this memorial is for you, Ye careless ones, strip ye, and make ye bare, and gird fackcloth upon your loins, Ifa. xxxii. II. What is your religion ? Is it not like the foam on the water, no substance in it? What is your life and conversation? See your own picture, Jer. ii. 24. A wild ass used to the wilderness, that fnuffeth up the wind at her pleasure. What condition is your soul in? The emblem of it is the fluggard's vineyard, All grown over with thorns, nettles cover. ing the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof broken down, Prov. xxiv. 30, 31. Can you really persuade yourselves, that you are going forth by the footsteps of the flock? that the saints now in glory took the sinful liberty of thinking, speaking, and acting, that you do? that their souls state and case cost them as few serious thoughts as yours hath cost you? Do you think to stumble on a saving interest in Christ, a pardon, a heaven? No, you will not find it. fo. Up, then, and be doing : set apart some time for considering of, and doing something effectually in